Saturday, February 27, 2016

"(Sunset Magazine) Cooking for Two..." (Pork Chops with Rhubarb Dressing) & "The Savory Way" (Winter Vegetable Puree) by Deborah Madison & "Leo Buscaglia's Love Cookbook with Biba Caggiano" (Honey Bread Pudding) - Valentine's Day 2016

Date I made these recipes:  February 14, 2016 – Valentine's Day

Sunset Cooking for Two...or Just for You
Published by: Lane Publishing Co.
© 1978
Purchased at Hennepin County Library Used Book Sale
Recipe:  Pork Chops with Rhubarb Dressing – p. 45

The Savory Way by Deborah Madison
Published by:  Bantam Books
© 1990; ISBN 0-553-05780-4
Purchased at Arc's Value Village Thrift Stores
Recipe: Winter Vegetable Puree – p. 197

Leo Buscaglia's Love Cookbook with Biba Caggiano
Published by:  SLACK Incorporated
ISBN: 0-8050-3725-X
Purchased at: Barnes and Noble Used Books, Roseville, MN
Recipe:  Honey Bread Pudding – p. 139

Well Valentine's Day has come and gone and although I barely had my act together when it came to selecting a menu, I managed to pull this meal out for the win!  Valentine's Day was saved, be still my heart! (Pun intended.)

Occasions like this often require a consultation with my better half as to which recipe(s) to select.  Normally, I'd go through a couple of cookbooks, earmarking recipes for him to consider, but this year I didn't and he was not at all happy: "What?  You don't have anything marked for me to look at?"  [Insert look of horror here.]  "No, I don't and that's because you often look through the entire book anyway and select something that I didn't mark."

Like tonight's entree, Pork Chops with Rhubarb Dressing.  I saw the recipe but ignored it; he saw it and thought it had potential.  And this is why we work so well together.

So he selected that recipe and I filled in the rest of the dinner with the winter vegetable puree and also the bread pudding from Leo Buscaglia and Biba Caggiano's "Love" Cookbook.   I toyed with making something chocolate but that is just so expected and I hate doing the expected so I switched it up and made honey bread pudding out of a "Love" cookbook; honey + "love" = perfect for Valentine's Day.  And so with that, our menu was all set and all that was left to do was to go shopping for the few ingredients I needed to make our day complete.

One and a half days later...

...Okay, this dinner almost didn't get off the ground because I couldn't find rhubarb.  Actually, I found it, I just didn't buy it when I found it (frozen) at the Lunds & Byerlys grocery store nearest our house because that would have been too easy.  Instead, I intended to purchase it at another Lunds & Byerlys in the city of Edina, where Andy and I were running some errands on Valentine's Day.

Except, of course, that Lunds & Byerlys was out of the frozen rhubarb.  What?  Let's review:  it's winter in Minnesota and a grocery store is out of frozen rhubarb?  Because....why?

Well this was puzzling and irritating at the same time because that meant we had to go all the way back to the other Lunds & Byerlys just to get rhubarb.  I was most certainly not feeling the love at that point, "L&B."  Not feeling the love.  But we made the trip because once we had our minds set on the dish, we had to have it which meant we had to have the rhubarb which meant that we had to waste gas going right back to the original source.  I could have screamed.

Luckily, the dish turned out and was very tasty even though I was skeptical that the spices – cinnamon and allspice - would overpower the dish.  They did not.  And as crazy as this sounds, I like the fact that a Cooking for Two cookbook delivered just the right amount of food.  I know, right?  Because folks, I've made a few other dishes from alleged "two person" cookbooks and either we both starved or we had way too many leftovers.  This amount was perfect plus, there were many other tasty-sounded recipes that will likely appeal if this one doesn't float your heart-shaped boat. 

Next up:  the side dish!  And now it's true confession time because I have to admit to you that I spent all of ten seconds leafing through The Savory Way  before finding what I wanted – potatoes – and calling it a day.  Some cookbooks are like that and I mean absolutely no disrespect to the author, Deborah Madison, because she writes excellent cookbooks.  I just needed to get on with my meal planning already, and that meant time was of the essence.  For those with plenty of time, this is a great cookbook and you'll be hard pressed not to find several recipes to suit your fancy.

For tonight's dinner, I made her dish pretty much to order although I barely added any butter (you can add butter or cream as optional ingredients) and I could have used a bit more salt because without it, the vegetables were not as flavorful.  I think that any type of root vegetables will do in this dish but I chose to go with potatoes, celery root, rutabaga and leeks. 

Although the flavors were slightly more savory than the pork chop dish, they worked pretty well together and we enjoyed eating them.  I wish we could say the same about the bread pudding which was not at all bad, it just wasn't the bread pudding we were used to.

For one thing, this recipe called for Italian bread and I don't know—I think it was the wrong flavor and consistency for the dish.  And instead of breaking the bread into cubes and baking it in a round casserole dish or soufflĂ© dish, the bread was layered like a lasagna.  And then there was the rum and I want it noted that while I am always a fan of using liquor in cooking, the recipe called for 1/3 a cup and that's a lot of rum.  A lot of rum.  We could smell it in the living room, that's how much rum there was.  So if we made this recipe again and it's unlikely, we would not layer the dish, use different bread and – I cannot believe I am saying this – cut way down on the dark rum. 

The nice thing about Leo and Biba's cookbook is that they've created menus to help you with your menu planning -  Loving Dinners for Two; Loving Dinners for Friends; Loving Dinners for Family which can be a great thing if you're trying to design a special dinner for Valentine's Day. 

So I was just sitting here contemplating the bread pudding recipe and Valentine's Day and how disappointing this dish was when it sounded so promising, when out of the blue, this scene from the movie, The Godfather, played in my head:  "I know it was you, Fredo.  You broke my heart.  You broke my heart."  This recipe broke my heart but if you tweak it just a little, I think you could have a winner (and then Fredo won't die and then Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) won't be mad and it'll all be good).

Until next Valentine's Day....

Pork Chops with Rhubarb Dressing – serves 2- From Sunset Cooking for Two...or Just for You
1/8 teaspoon dry rosemary, crumbled
½ teaspoon salt
Dash pepper
2 pork loin or shoulder chops, cut ¾ inch thick
1 tablespoon salad oil
2 slices firm-textured bread, cut into ½-inch cubes (about 1 ¾ cups)
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1 pound rhubarb, cut into 1/2 –inch pieces (about 3 cups)
1 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour

Mix together rosemary, salt, and pepper.  Sprinkle evenly over chops.  Heat oil in a wide frying pan over medium-high heat; add chops and brown on both sides; set aside with drippings.

Stir together bread cubes, brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice, rhubarb, and flour; spread half the mixture in a greased shallow 1 ½ to 2-quart baking dish.  Arrange chops on top; spoon over 2 tablespoons drippings (add water if necessary, to make this amount); top with remaining rhubarb mixture.  (Cover and refrigerate if made ahead.)

Bake, covered, in a 350 oven for 45 minutes; then uncover and bake for 15 minutes longer or until pork is fork tender.

Winter Vegetable Puree – makes about 2 ½ cups, serving 4 to 6 – From The Savory  Way
2 cups White Rose or red potatoes, scrubbed and diced into ½-inch pieces
3 cups mixed winter vegetables such as turnips, rutabagas, leeks, celery root, and fennel, diced into ½-inch pieces
3 sprigs chopped parsley
1 pinch of dried thyme
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
Butter or cream (optional)
Champagne vinegar
Freshly ground white pepper

Put the vegetables in a saucepan with the parsley, thyme, garlic, salt, and enough water to cover.  (Ann's Note:  just saying the word "salt" is not a good indication of how much.  I did not use enough.  You've been warned.)  Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer until the vegetables are completely soft, about 20 minutes.  Pour them into a colander set over a bowl; reserve the liquid.

Pass the vegetables through a food mill or mash by hand.  (The food processor will tend to make them too gummy and glutinous.)  Use the cooking water to thin the puree to the proper consistency.  Stir in additional butter or cream to taste and season with salt, a dash of vinegar and pepper.

Ann's Note:  I didn't use the vinegar and used just a scant amount of butter.  The resulting flavor was okay but a little bland so I added more salt.  If I made this again, I might use some chicken broth in place of some of the vegetable liquid; vegetarians, ignore that note!

Honey Bread Pudding – makes 6 servings – From Leo Buscalia's Love Cookbook with Biba Caggiano
Ann's Note:  As stated above, I think I would have liked this recipe a lot better had I used different bread, torn it into cubes instead of slicing and layering it, baked it in a round casserole and used less rum.  "But other than that, Mrs. Lincoln..."
8 to 10 (1/2-inch thick slices crusty Italian bread, preferably one to two days old, with crust removed
¼ pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
½ cup honey
1/3 cup dark rum
½ cup golden raisins, soaked in lukewarm water for 20 minutes, then drained
4 large eggs
½ cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
3 cups milk

Preheat the oven to 375F.  Generously butter a 9 x 12-inch baking dish.  Arrange the bread slices in a single layer in the dish, slightly overlapping each other.  Set aside.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.  Add the honey and rum, and raise the heat to high.  Cook, stirring, until sauce begins to thicken and is foamy and bubbling, 3 to 4 minutes.  Stir in the raisins, remove from heat, and pour over the bread evenly.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with 1/3 cup of the sugar.  Add the cream and milk, and beat well to combine.  Pour over the bread and sprinkle with remaining sugar.

Bake 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325F and bake an additional 20 to 25 minutes, or until pudding is set and the bread has a nice golden color.  Remove pudding from oven, and let it stand.  Cool to room temperature and serve.

Prepare ahead:  Complete steps one through four a day or two ahead.  Cover and refrigerate.  If pudding is refrigerated, allow it to come to room temperature before serving.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

"Rival Crock Pot Cooking" (Beef Tacos with Mexican Sauce) and "Culinary Arts Institute Crockery Cooking" (Spanish Rice) - Super Bowl 50!

Date I made these recipes:  February 7, 2016 – Super Bowl Sunday

Rival® Crock Pot Cooking
Published by:  Golden Press
© 1975
Purchased at Goodwill
Recipe:  Beef Tacos with Mexican Sauce – p. 45

Culinary Arts Institute Crockery Cooking (part of Adventures in Cooking Series)
Published by the Culinary Arts Institute
© 1976
Recipe:  Spanish Rice – p. 38

There is no perfect time to pull out a crock pot or two than during the Super Bowl because between the commercials and the pre-game and the game itself, who has time to prepare a meal the old-fashioned way?  Not me (even though I have a TV in my kitchen).  Besides, it's still winter out and that is a crock pot's moment to shine. 

Finding the right recipe combination is also essential to game-time and crock pot enjoyment.  Think Goldilocks:  not too basic, not too fancy, just right.

And this is how I ended up reviewing endless recipes for things like frank and beans, brats and beans, beans, hamburger and beans, hamburgers in the crock pot, chili verde, chile with meat, chili with beans, killer chili, hot dips and even mac and cheese.  I mean, there's no rule that says Super Bowl food has to be selected from one of these recipes groupings, but that tends to be the type of food people crave and I am all about giving the people what they want.

And by "people," I mean me and my husband.  I can count on one hand the number of times that I've watched a Packers game with friends (it's best if they don't see me go all full metal jacket during a Packers game) and by the time we get to Super Bowl Sunday each year, the thrill of football is (nearly) gone and I just want to hang out, be free without having to entertain.

Besides, as it happened, we went out for dinner with my mother-in-law for her belated birthday celebration and so making something in the crock pot to be eaten later was just the thing.  As it turned out, we almost ended up back at our house to eat as several of the restaurants she wanted to dine at were closed for the Super Bowl.  At zero hour, we found a place that suited and we got home just in time to see the half time show, our trusty crock pots nearly done slow-cooking our second dinner for the day.  Okay, true confessions:  we had it the next day.

The crock pot came into existence in 1970 and I don't think popularity for this wonder cooker has ever waned.  Every year, more and more crock pot (or slow cooker) books, like the ones I used hit the market, and new and improved recipes for everything under the sun keep popping up all the time.  The few crock pot cookbooks I own are not fancy-shcmancy but they do the job.

One crock pot cookbook (more like a booklet) that I used to death is the one that came with my Hamilton Beach crockpot which I purchased circa 1978 or so while I was in college.  My three other roommates and I, all college juniors and seniors, had a very busy schedule and so we took turns plugging in the crock pot so we'd have dinner ready after work or after class.  To this day, the beef dishes from this booklet, especially the beef in wine, are some of the best dishes I've ever made. (Can you go wrong adding wine to a dish?  No.)  These two dishes were good but not without some problems that I will address momentito.

As between the two books, the Rival cookbook had more recipes geared for the "common" man and I selected a lot more potential recipes from this book than the one from the Culinary Institute.  Some of the recipe names grabbed my attention until I looked at the ingredient list, for example:  "Bologna-Baga Bake" that contained bologna and rutabaga (ew) p. 64 or "The Babysitter's Favorite" – p. 65 that would not have been my favorite under any circumstances as it contained frankfurters, apples, sweet potatoes, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.  Are they kidding?  What teenage gal or guy wants that kind of food to eat while watching a bunch of kids?

On the other hand, "Camp-Out Chili Dogs" – p. 65 – sounded delicious and definitely Super Bowl-worthy.  There were a bunch of casserole recipes that sounded good but not for a football celebration.  The last chapter of this book was dedicated to breads and cakes and again, sounded good but not for tonight's repast.

And then there's the Culinary Arts Institute cookbook and I have to say that never, ever associated the term "crock pot" with a culinary arts school.  (Do note that the Culinary Arts Institute is not the same as the famed CIA – Culinary Institute of America® – but the model is somewhat the same).  This cookbook took more of an around-the-world approach, showcasing dishes from other countries such as "Bouillabaisse" – p. 70 or "Solianka" from the (former) Soviet Union – p. 54.  And while a lot of them sounded tasty, I had to work hard to find something to fit my football dinner theme and finally decided on the Spanish Rice recipe – p. 38.  It paired very well with my Beef Tacos with Mexican Sauce and since I have two crock pots, I put them both to work to make this dish.

Because it needed a longer cooking time, I started the taco recipe earlier in the day and then refrigerated it until serving time.  My only complaint, and it could be my palate, was that I thought the dish was a little salty and I even used "No Salt Added" pinto beans.  I also made half the recipe and kept a close eye on the cooking time because I was worried I might burn it if I left it in for the required 8 to 10 hours (full recipe).  I think I pulled the plug after 6 hours and it was fine.  In fact, I'm not even sure why this dish needed to be made in a crock pot but mine was not to wonder why.

The Spanish Rice dish cooked for a shorter time (4-6 hours) but folks, for the first time ever, ever, ever, the rice did not cook.  I don't know why that is but I wonder if it didn't need more liquid to fully develop as the recipe is heavy on meat, tomatoes and tomato paste but not really on water.  Since the rice in the crock pot didn't cook, I made a batch in my rice cooker and it came out great but then again, the water ratio was dead on accurate.  And so if you decide to make this at home, add maybe ¼ cup of water and see how that works.  Aside from the fact that our Spanish Rice had a crunch to it, it was a pretty good recipe.

Oh—and the game?  Broncos 24, Panthers 10.  And by the way, I read that the NFL will return to Roman numerals next year and sweet merciful heavens, as if I don't have enough fun "translating" all the copyrights listed in Roman numerals in my older cookbooks, now I have to figure this out?  Next thing you know, we'll have to do the same with the score:  So let's see, the Broncos had 24 so that's XXIV and the Panthers had 10 so that's X and so then add the two, carry the two, divide by two and you get...liftoff?


Beef Tacos with Mexican Sauce – makes about 2 ½ quarters, enough to fill 2 to 3 dozen taco shells
Taco Filling
2 lb. lean ground beef
2 medium onions
1 to 2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon leaf oregano (Ann's Note:  I used Mexican oregano)
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup taco sauce (Ann's Note:  since I halved the recipe, I only needed 1/6 cup and that was not enough to justify buying a bottle of sauce so I used water.  We are not regular taco eaters in this house.)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 can (16 oz) pinto beans or green peas, drained and pureed in blender
Taco Shells
Mexican Sauce
Mexican Sauce
2 cups chopped peeled tomatoes or 1 can (16 oz.) whole tomatoes
1 small onion, quartered
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon chili powder
½ teaspoon leaf oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 small jalapeno pepper, fresh or canned (optional)

In a large skillet, brown ground beef and onions; drain well.  Place beef and onions in Crock Pot.  Stir in remaining ingredients except taco shells and Mexican Sauce.  Cover and cook on Low setting for 8 to 10 hours.  Ann's Note:  since I made half the recipe, I cut the time down to 6 hours for fear of burning the mixture.  It's pretty much ready to go as soon as you mix all the ingredients but this is just a slow way to warm it up.  Taste for seasoning.  Fill taco shells and serve with sauce. 

Spanish Rice – 8 to 10 servings.  Ann's Note:   Be warned, the halved recipe still made a lot of Spanish rice.
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, peeled and finely chopped
2 green peppers, cleaned and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
2 pounds ground round steak or chuck
2 cans (28 ounces each) Italian-style tomatoes (undrained)
1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
1 tablespoon wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (optional)
1 dash Tabasco (optional)
2 teaspoons salt
Pepper to taste
1 ½ teaspoons chili powder
Few grains cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf
2 or 3 whole cloves
2 cups uncooked long grain rice (Ann's Note:  As stated above, the rice failed to cook at all and I have no idea why this happened.  To be on the safe side, make the rice separately and add it to the ground beef mixture when ready to serve.)

Heat olive oil in a large skillet.  Add onions, green pepper, and garlic; cook over medium heat until tender and lightly browned.  Remove vegetables with a slotted spoon to an electric cooker.

Add meat to oil remaining in skillet.  Cook over medium heat until lightly browned, stirring occasionally.  Add to cooker with tomatoes, tomato paste, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, salt, pepper, chili powder, cayenne pepper, bay leaf, cloves, and rice; stir thoroughly to blend well.

Cover and cook on Low 4 to 6 hours.